Soccer

Arsenal, Newcastle on track for glory in ’23

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It’s 2023 and membership soccer is again with a bang! Newcastle United and Arsenal have underlined their Premier League title credentials with a sequence of spectacular performances, whereas in LaLiga one of many Qatar World Cup’s most notorious characters was again in the highlight once more.

ESPN correspondents Julien Laurens, James Tyler, Mark Ogden and Sam Marsden break down the massive stuff it’s essential know concerning the weekend.

Jump to: Talking points | Best goals | Teams in trouble | MVP of the Weekend


Talking factors

Howe’s spectacular Toon turnaround

Newcastle fell wanting profitable seven successive Premier League video games for the primary time since 1996 with Leeds United holding Eddie Howe’s crew to a 0-0 draw at St James’ Park on Saturday, however the outcome was solely a minor glitch on the finish of an unbelievable yr for the membership.

On Jan 1, 2022, Newcastle had been second backside of the Premier League with 11 factors — and only one win — from 19 video games, however a yr on, they sit in third place and now harbour real hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, 19 years after final enjoying in the competitors.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)

Newcastle’s resurgence beneath Howe is maybe greatest illustrated by the calendar yr desk for the Premier League in 2022. They collected 72 factors from 36 video games, with solely Manchester City (79), Liverpool and Arsenal (each 77) amassing extra factors between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31.

To go from relegation candidates to Champions League chasers in such a brief house of time is not distinctive — Leicester City received the Premier League in 2016 after narrowly avoiding relegation in 2015 — however Newcastle’s turnaround has been past all expectations.

The funding from the membership’s new Saudi Arabia-backed house owners has clearly made a distinction, however Newcastle haven’t benefited from the type of prompt monetary transformation loved by Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea or Man City following Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008.

Newcastle’s enchancment has largely been right down to Howe making under-performing gamers realise their potential, however they need to now preserve it going and 2023 could not begin a lot harder than Tuesday’s go to to Arsenal. — Ogden

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Steve Nicol expects Newcastle United to keep up their wonderful begin and problem for the Premier League’s prime 4.

Lahoz stars as Barca give up LaLiga lead

Referee Mateu Lahoz took the headlines as Barcelona had been pissed off by Espanyol in Saturday’s Catalan derby, drawing 1-1 to permit Real Madrid to maneuver stage with them on the prime of LaLiga.

Officiating his first LaLiga recreation since his controversial outing in the World Cup quarterfinal between Argentina and Netherlands, Lahoz handed out 15 yellow playing cards, despatched off two gamers and overturned a 3rd crimson card after referring to the VAR.

– Marsden: Lahoz takes middle stage in Barca’s draw with Espanyol

Marcos Alonso had given Barca an early lead, however the recreation boiled over after Lahoz awarded an Espanyol a 73rd minute penalty, resulting in 10 minutes of insanity.

Joselu transformed from the spot earlier than the playing cards began flying out, with Jordi Alba despatched off for Barca and Vinicius Souza for the away facet. Espanyol’s Leandro Cabrera was additionally despatched off for an obvious stamp on Robert Lewandowski however the choice was reversed.

Barca coach Xavi Hernandez mentioned Lahoz “lost control” of the sport, however he didn’t blame him for the dropped factors, conceding that it was Barca’s fault that they had drawn the match.

It means the Blaugrana at the moment are stage with Madrid on the prime of LaLiga after a Karim Benzema double helped them see off Real Valladolid on Friday. The striker has struggled with accidents this season — lacking the World Cup with France — however he may very well be key in the title race in the second half of the marketing campaign — Marsden

Lens guarantee PSG begin 2023 with a loss

It was the proper conflict to open the brand new yr. Lens vs. Paris Saint-Germain, second vs. first, Franck Haise vs. Christophe Galtier — two French managers — head-to-head, depth vs. aptitude, collective energy vs. Kylian “best player in the world” Mbappe, no Lionel Messi or Neymar however among the best atmospheres in the world on the Stade Bollaert. And it did not disappoint.

Lens put out a grasp class tactically to stop PSG from enjoying or creating possibilities, urgent them when wanted and shutting down the affect of Mbappe. The ways, in addition to the Lensois’ standard work-rate, depth, coronary heart and fixed motion proved an excessive amount of for Galtier’s facet.

Seko Fofana, the Lens captain, Paris born and bred, was excellent, like all his teammates. They wished a win greater than the Parisians, who acquired pissed off and had been too under their standard stage, particularly with out Messi and Neymar, to have the ability to deal with all the things their opponent threw at them.

PSG’s first defeat of the season goes to harm quite a bit even when they’re nonetheless 4 factors away from Lens. But for Lens, Sunday’s 3-1 victory will keep ceaselessly in the minds. — Laurens

New yr, standard Spurs

Just when it appears as if Tottenham Hotspur are turning a nook, they flip in a efficiency that makes you surprise why you believed in them in the primary place.

Sunday noticed Spurs ring in the brand new yr with a irritating 2-0 house defeat to Aston Villa that was each self-inflicted and totally deserved. After a primary half with loads of sterile possession and little to indicate for it, Hugo Lloris fumbled a reasonably benign shot from distance and Ollie Watkins beat a torpid Eric Dier to the unfastened ball and squared it neatly for Emi Buendia to calmly open the scoring. You’d assume it could wake the house facet up, however Harry Kane and Ivan Perisic each squandered good possibilities earlier than Villa’s greatest transfer of the day sliced Tottenham up the center. After Kane misplaced the ball cheaply contained in the Spurs half, some intelligent interaction by John McGinn and Douglas Luiz culminated in Luiz sending a shot past a flailing Lloris to make a protected lead nearly assured.

The defeat means Tottenham have taken simply 4 factors from their final 4 league video games and have squandered any edge in the race for the highest 4, with Manchester United and Liverpool catching up having each received twice in the league for the reason that finish of the World Cup break. Antonio Conte claimed postmatch that he wasn’t upset at proceedings — “From the start until the end I have seen the right commitment, the right intensity and desire to get three points” — however this crew is limping into the January switch window with some clear wants (in specific a artistic playmaker in midfield) and no sense of whether or not or not they may exit and get it. You can wager their rivals will, although. — Tyler

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Janusz Michallik sees Tottenham’s prime 4 hopes slipping away after defeat to Aston Villa.


Goals

Atletico’s Morata again with a bang

Atletico Madrid’s World Cup stars returned in fashion as they moved again into the highest 4 with a 2-0 win towards all-time low Elche on Thursday, full with a wonderful particular person effort from Alvaro Morata.

Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann did nicely for Portugal and France respectively in Qatar and so they mixed for the primary objective earlier than Morata’s strike sealed the win.

There appeared little hazard when he picked up a Griezmann cross huge on the appropriate, however he produced two sensible feints to beat two defenders earlier than his admittedly closely deflected shot discovered the again of the online.

After a cold and hot begin to the marketing campaign, coach Diego Simeone will hope this win can present the platform to a sustained run of kind in the brand new yr. — Marsden

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รlvaro Morata objective 74th minute Atletico Madrid 2-0 Elche

Golovin, from Monaco with love

Aleksandr Golovin is simply that type of participant, is not he? He is able to the very best, as we noticed Sunday, however usually — perhaps too usually — nameless for 90 minutes and extra.

But when he’s on, he’s a really particular participant. And he was very a lot on towards Brest on the Stade Louis II this weekend. His magnificent objective simply after the break, with a stunning piece of talent on the sting of the field after which an exquisite strike on the highest nook, was decisive once more. It is simply his fourth objective of the season in 16 Ligue 1 video games. He additionally has 4 assists, and he might have added at the least another Sunday seeing how impressed he was with the ball.

We ought to get pleasure from him and these sorts of performances once they come, however we will additionally bemoan the truth that he does not do it sufficient. Since becoming a member of AS Monaco in the summer time of 2018, after a superb World Cup, he has solely scored 20 objectives in 153 appearances. But, at 26 years previous, it isn’t too late for Golovin to develop into extra constant and at last get to the following stage. His expertise definitely deserves it, and Monaco have been ready lengthy sufficient for it now! — Laurens

Rashford responds in the appropriate manner

Marcus Rashford knew that every one eyes can be on him when he climbed off the substitute’s bench at half-time throughout Manchester United’s recreation at Wolves on Saturday.

The 25-year-old had been surprisingly dropped by supervisor Erik ten Hag for “internal disciplinary reasons” — it turned out that Rashford had overslept on the day of the sport and missed a crew assembly — so the stress was on him to ship after Ten Hag had given him the possibility to make amends with the sport at 0-0.

Rashford made an prompt affect, although, by including tempo and objective to United’s attacking play and he received all three factors by scoring the one objective of the sport late in the second half.

Receiving the ball on the close to touchline, Rashford burst in the direction of the penalty space, performed a one-two with Bruno Fernandes after which beat goalkeeper Jose Sa with a cool end for his third objective in three video games since getting back from the World Cup.

It was the objective of a participant with a number of confidence, but in addition an enormous second as a result of his efficiency confirmed that he had reacted in the appropriate solution to Ten Hag’s choice to drop him. — Ogden


Teams in hassle

Leicester City want some assist

The Foxes scored three objectives Friday at Anfield, however as a result of two of them had been personal objectives transformed with equal elements aplomb and calamity by Wout Faes, Brendan Rodgers’ facet suffered a second straight league defeat after the World Cup. It’s not terminal, by any means — simply 10 factors separate eleventh place from twentieth — however Leicester are quickly dropping any margin for error. Against Liverpool, they raced to a 1-0 lead inside 5 minutes after some nifty collaboration between Patson Daka and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, however Faes’ ignominious double earlier than half-time put them in a gap they by no means regarded like clearing.

(And can we marvel at Faes for a second? The first OG was a slapstick shank over Danny Ward when the goalkeeper had yelled loudly sufficient to say the cross that everybody in the bottom heard however the Belgian defender. The second was the epitome of “life comes at you fast” as Darwin Nunez’s emphatic shot pinged off the publish proper into Faes, who might solely bundle it into his personal web.)

It’s true they will not lose to a number of personal objectives each week however, mixed with Boxing Day’s 3-0 house thrashing by Newcastle, Rodgers & Co. want a spark from someplace and it stays to be seen simply the place it is coming from. Jamie Vardy, lengthy the scorer of essential objectives, has only one in the league this season from 17 video games. Daka, who had the help Friday, has simply three in 16 appearances. It’s merely not ok, particularly as their protection is at all times liable to concede. Things had been far too simple for Liverpool as soon as they took the lead earlier than half-time, however the subsequent month ought to give the Foxes each probability to recalibrate: Games towards Fulham, Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Aston Villa can allow them to get factors over potential relegation rivals earlier than a brutal February sees them face Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal in consecutive matchdays. — Tyler

Sampaoli’s Sevilla stoop continues

The World Cup break doesn’t appear to have modified Sevilla’s fortunes. Jorge Sampaoli’s facet restarted with a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo which leaves them in the relegation zone heading into 2023.

It might have been a lot worse, too, after Gabri Veiga gave Celta, who’re additionally in hassle themselves, a primary half lead. Kike Salas did draw Sevilla stage after the break, however they had been hanging on on the finish after Jose Angel Carmona was despatched off.

Sevilla completed fourth final yr and had been in the Champions League this season, so it’s outstanding that after 15 video games they continue to be in the underside three with simply two wins and 12 factors. Their performances can now not be put right down to only a blip in kind. — Marsden


Weekend MVP

Odegaard exhibiting management with the Gunners

Erling Haaland is not the one Norway worldwide tearing it up in the Premier League this season — Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard can be having a huge effect and he might but assist his crew win the title at Haaland and Manchester City’s expense.

The Gunners midfielder was as soon as billed as a possible world star, identical to Haaland, when he joined Real Madrid as a 16-year-old.

– Olley: Arsenal celebrates the New Year in fashion

But whereas his huge transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu by no means fairly took off, Odegaard, now 24, is making up for misplaced time at Arsenal and he delivered the newest in a sequence of huge performances throughout Saturday’s 4-2 win at Brighton.

Odegaard scored one and made one other for Gabriel Martinelli as Arsenal capitalised on City being held to a 1-1 draw by Everton to say a victory which strikes them seven factors clear on the prime of the desk.

And Odegaard is essential to the best way Mikel Arteta’s crew play, together with his passing imaginative and prescient and rising management abilities making him one of many excellent gamers of the Premier League season to this point.

When he was handed the captaincy final season by Arteta, Odegaard appeared too younger and inexperienced to emulate nice Arsenal captains resembling Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira, however he’s now exhibiting himself to be a worthy successor. — Ogden



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